Combine Victorian Gothic literature characters, plop them down in the middle of a picturesque, oppressively gray and visceral late 19th century London and bring it all to slow inevitable boil. The result is Penny Dreadful, two beautiful and other worldly seasons of it that, so far, have been freakishly charming and bizarre. Where else can you find Victor Frankenstein rubbing shoulders with Dr. Henry Jekyll and a lycanthrope romances with the future Frankenstein’s monster’s bride?
Last season concluded in a way that left the future of our characters in doubt, splitting the group apart and setting them unto different paths. It almost feels like they may never reunite. It now becomes clear that this season will give them a reason to reunite as well as evolve with new personas in the story.
Now that Penny Dreadful has established itself, it can take its own pace uncoiling from the convention in the characters it introduced and reinvent the classics. Already, it has started doing that. For example, Victor Frankenstein and his Creatures bear the hallmark of the Shelley classic, yet they all still underwent a remarkable dramatic makeover.
Thank goodness the first episode started the season right by breaking the mold out of the oppressive box of Malcolm’s London fortress. No less than by showing Vanessa Ives’ degenerating and deplorable condition, almost animal-like when she plunks down on the floor and gobbles down chunks of bread. When Ferdinand Lyle visits, the show never disappoints in its dialogue, which is always a tasty treat.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Murray, after burying his friend Sembene in Zanzibar, finds himself restless and soon in need of help from an attack by the locals. Victor Frankenstein has become a full blown addict and this is where we’re introduced to Dr. Henry Jekyll. The two have apparently been acquaintances since medical school. And is it just me or is there palpable chemistry between the two? We’ll see.
Also, Ethan Chandler seems to have no choice in his soon-to-be reunion with his father. After a group of Apache riders ambushed the train he was on, resulting in a rather bloody and violent shootout, our lupus dei finds himself changing hands. Hecate, the last surviving minion of Madam Kali, is stalking Ethan and it’s going to be interesting to find out why.
Another creature on the run is Caliban, Frankenstein’s first monster. He is trapped on a ship somewhere in the Arctic where the sailors are rapidly dying out from cold and starvation.
But perhaps the highlight of the episode is the built-up towards the reveal of this season’s big bad. Heeding the suggestion of Ferdinand Lyle to see a “mental doctor” Dr. Seward, who we previously saw playing Joan Clayton as the Cut Wife in season 2, we see Vanessa Ives at a helpless surprise that the doctor was able to read her very accurately. Of course, Patti Lupone is as amazing and memorable as she was in season 2.
Vanessa has also found some form of happiness and innocent romantic moments with a new character, the zoologist Dr. Sweet. Its really heartbreaking because she has been through so many traumatic losses that we’re already dreading if she will lose this as well. Just like how poignant and dreadful it was when she lost Ethan Chandler and gave up the peaceful and happy life she glimpsed when it was offered by the “devil”, in exchange for her soul when she died.
As for the big reveal, its a nightmarish sequence once again when Renfield, Dr. Seward’s secretary, is surrounded by creepy “vampire familiars” in a dark and abandoned warehouse. Dracula’s near-hisses and ominous whisper of “I am Dracula” was definitely chilling.
I love it! 😀